PRIME Minister Manasseh Sogavare has warned that private or commercial companies that undermine the safety and security of this country will be dealt with.
Sogavare made this statement during his nationwide address yesterday following reports that several private and commercial companies are coordinating chartered flights and shipping vessels without the approval of the Oversight Committee.
Prime Minister Sogavare said whilst the Government and people of Solomon Islands have worked tirelessly in preventing the further entry of COVID-19 into the country, several companies are more interested about their businesses than the safety of the people of this country from COVID-19.
“I am extremely disappointed,” the Prime Minister said.
Prime Minister Sogavare said last week, the Oversight Committee rejected an application for a privately chartered commercial passenger flight that had already been arranged by several private and commercial companies to bring in their employees from Malaysia, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea into Solomon Islands.
He said these three countries are listed as extremely high-risk countries for COVID-19 that Solomon Islands had put travel restrictions on.
In another incident, last Thursday 13th May, Prime Minister Sogavare said a PNG registered Landing Craft, MV Kopi Chief arrived from Lae, chartered by a private company in Honiara.
He said the Oversight Committee Vessel Exemption Committee identified a serious COVID-19 risk and directed that all the 14-crew members must be tested for COVID-19.
“The instruction to test the crews was taken despite all 14 crew members having tested negative for COVID-19 at Lae, on 7th May 2021, the day the vessel departed from Lae to travel to Honiara,” he said.
The Prime Minister said because of the decision to re-test all the crew members here, authorities have established that two of the 14-crew members on board tested positive for COVID-19.
“This vessel has been put into immediate quarantine. No one is allowed to board the vessel without the permission of the Incident Controller, and no one from the vessel is allowed to disembark,” he said.
The Prime Minister said the two positive cases are currently isolated on the vessel, while our health team for execution develops a vessel and cargo containment and decontamination plan.
Prime Minister Sogavare said he has already given instructions to the Oversight Committee to identify the companies that have coordinated these charters so that they can be told about their duty to protect this country instead of undermining our national security.
“To all private and commercial companies working in Solomon Islands. This country welcomes you all to work in partnership with us to grow our economy and in doing so you also benefit.
“However, each of you have a duty of care not to engage in activities that undermine the safety and security of this country and its people from COVID-19,” the Prime Minister said.
Sogavare said effective as of yesterday, no private or commercial company shall organise its own commercial airline charter arrangements to bring their employees from countries that are listed as high-risk by Solomon Islands, without first seeking the advice, guidance, and explicit approval of the Oversight Committee before even planning any such flight.
“Also effective from today, no private or commercial company shall charter a vessel to bring people of cargo from countries that are listed as high-risk by Solomon Islands without first seeking the advice, guidance, and explicit approval of the Oversight Committee before even planning any such charter,” he added.
A disappointed Prime Minister Sogavare said COVID-19 is not a joke.
“The safety and security of my people is paramount,” he said.
He added any action taken by any company that undermines the safety and security of this country as aptly demonstrated by the rejected charter flight, and the chartered ‘landing craft that has brought two COVID-19 positive cases to our doorstep’ will not be tolerated.
“Any private or commercial company that go against these instructions will be taken to task,” he said.